Something Like Summer is a sometimes delightful, sometimes heart-wrenching look into how identity and acceptance both informs and complicates our love lives. Directed by David Berry, the movie follows the trials and tribulations of characters that folks might be familiar with from Jay Bell’s Something Like series.
Adapting a beloved book into a screenplay can often be a thankless task. Stay too close to the source material, and you can end up bogged down with needless plot and exposition. Stray too far, and you can end up with a movie that alienates your built-in audience. Local screenwriter Carlos Pedraza’s adaptation of Bell’s books mostly avoided falling into either trap. The story detailed some very dramatic situations while rarely teetering past the edge into melodrama. Instead, Pedraza showed a deft hand when dealing with the characters’ highs and lows, offering nuance and complexity without victimization.
My only complaint, not having read the novels, was that I sometimes felt as if I was expected to know things about the characters or plot that I didn’t, which was challenging given the 2-hour runtime of the film. Still, for lives that were complicated by no ordinary love triangle, I was never left to wonder what the characters’ motivations truly were.
The success of the film is due in no small part to its outstanding cast, particularly Grant Davis (Benjamin Bentley) and Davi Santos (Tim Wyman). Davis, in his first leading film role, is burdened with a character who’s shown over many years, from high school, to college, and beyond. It’s a challenge that the young actor attacks with gusto, aided by his incredible singing voice, which we’re treated to in musical numbers throughout the film.
Santos, who’s probably best known for playing the gold ranger in the Power Rangers Dino Charge series, offers a complex and nuanced performance throughout the film both as a closeted high school kid and a lovelorn young adult. Wyman is arguably the most complicated character in the story, and yet Santos plays the part with a subtlety and natural grace that fills the character with life.
Both actors show undeniable chemistry with one another. It’s exciting to watch their relationship develop and grow over the course of the film, even when you’re not really supposed to be rooting for them to succeed.
Ben Baur (Jace Holden) was enjoyable, if infrequently seen, playing the older half of Bentley’s first adult relationship, while Ajiona Alexus (Allison Cross) and Jana Lee Hamblin (Mrs. Bentley) were both incredible, and mostly wasted in their meager roles.
The film was shot entirely in Portland, OR, which acted as a stand in for various cities in Texas, as well as a romantic overseas destination. Berry, in his directorial debut, definitely makes the most his location, offering his audience, a sunny, almost glowing locale that works well, only occasionally having to resort to green screen location shots. His extensive Director of Photography work is also clearly evident in the lush palette and gorgeously lit shots seen throughout the film.
In the end, the film will impact even the hardest of hearts. Despite what flaws it may have, it’s a joy to see such thoughtful work in a film such a this. This is no typical coming of age story, after all. Instead, Something Like Summer is a gorgeous, thought-provoking, heart-warming love story filled with strong performances that will leave you wanting more.